THE world seems beset by both large and small civil wars-- conflicts in Korea, Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East, and the still festering remnants in the former Yugoslavia are just a few. Individually we may also experience such wars when family members square off against each other or formerly friendly members of organizations--political parties, churches, and so forth--experience divisions.
Mary Baker Eddy--who discovered Christian Science in 1866, not long after the American Civil War--was well aware of the heartbreak that comes when brother fights against brother. And in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the book that presents her full statement of Christian Science, she offers an insight that is the key to ending civil wars.
She discusses the Biblical account of Cain and Abel, in the book of Genesis. As the Bible explains it, both men made an offering to God. Cain, a farmer, brought ``of the fruit of the ground'' (4:3). His brother Abel kept sheep, and he sacrificed a lamb. When God preferred Abel's offering, which evidenced more devotion to Deity, Cain became murderously jealous and killed his brother. Mrs. Eddy interprets this in Science and Health: ``The erroneous belief that life, substance, and intelligence can be material ruptures the life and brotherhood of man at the very outset'' (p. 541).
Antagonism stems from the belief that each of us is a material being who can threaten or be threatened by others. If accepted, this belief would lead us to hate those who are different and to try to keep them from prospering.
The antidote to the ruptures that materiality would cause comes in recognizing the unifying power of divine Love, or God. Christ Jesus taught and lived God's love, and Science and Health shows us how to put his teachings to work in our own lives. In speaking to his disciples not long before he was crucified, John's Gospel records, Jesus said, ``As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. . . . This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you'' (15:9, 12).
At first glance we might think that this love is simply human affection. But human love, worthy as it is, has limits. It can be affected by prejudice, impatience, frustration, and even exhaustion. The love Jesus exemplified has a deeper source. It is found in God Himself. As Science and Health declares, ``God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more?'' (p. 2). Divine Love, God, is infinite, and so there is no place where we can be cut off from this Love. Moreover, the Bible also tells us that we are God's sons and daughters. This means we partake of His nature, and expressing love toward others is part of our spiritual inheritance.
We don't need to be jealous or fearful if our brother (literal or figurative) prospers, because we are all members of the same spiritual family. The infinitude of Love means that no one can be deprived of anything good that he or she needs. When we recognize and accept our relationship to divine Love, we find that personal-- and national--civil wars are truly unnecessary.
This is not to say that we can ignore malice or just cover it over with ``good thoughts.'' To be the child of divine Love requires us to strive diligently for the understanding that will enable us to love others, even if they do not love us. We shouldn't, however, be surprised if we find that our appreciation of others leads them to be more accepting of us in turn. The genuine love we express has a way of coming back to us because its source is in infinite, divine Love. Civil wars may not go away all at once. But if we are willing to pray diligently and to give up the material thinking that provides the basis for these wars, we may well find a time when the expression ``civil war'' will be obsolete.